Explore The Turquoise Coast
The ruins 1km off Highway 400, 3km north of Tekirova, flank three small bays, providing ample opportunity to contemplate antique monuments while lying on the beach. While it can’t compare to some sites east of Antalya, or to nearby Arykanda, there’s certainly enough to see at Phaselis, where Jason and the Argonauts was filmed in 1999. The natural beauty and clear sea make for a rewarding half-day outing – though bring a picnic if you don’t fancy the car-park snack-caravans.
The access road passes under a bluff with a fortified settlement enclosed by a Hellenistic wall, including a tower and three archery slits. The most obvious landmark, behind a helpful map placard and the first car park, is the substantial, elegant Roman aqueduct. Supposed to have been one of the longest in the ancient world, it carried water from a spring inside the northern fortifications almost as far as the south harbour.
Arrayed around a promontory behind which most of the fan-shaped city is located, Phaselis’s three harbours are obvious, and ideal for orientation. The north harbour was too exposed to be used except in very favourable conditions, but traces of the ancient south quay remain. It made an easy landing-point for aggressors, however, so was fortified with a three-metre-wide wall – now submerged, but still intact. The middle harbour also had a strong sea wall, and the eighteen-metre-wide entrance could be closed off; today it’s a shallow cove with a small beach. The largest, southwest port (with its own parking and ticket booth for boat arrivals) was protected by a 180-metre-long breakwater, now mostly submerged. It sheltered the largest trading vessels, and now sees numerous pleasure craft calling for the sake of its fine, large beach.
Between the harbours the promontory acropolis is covered in overgrown ruins of dwellings and round cisterns. The city’s main axis is the paved avenue, which crosses the neck of the promontory, linking the south and middle harbours; partway along a rectangular plaza is thought to be the heart of the agora. At the southern-harbour end, only the foundations and tumbled marble masonry survive of the monumental gateway constructed to honour Hadrian’s visit.
The well-preserved, second-century AD theatre, looking towards Tahtalı Dağ from between the acropolis and the main street, held around 1500 people. Three large doors above present ground level probably led to the stage; below these five smaller doors would have opened into the orchestra, and were possibly used to admit wild animals.